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Mobile users will benefit from latest mast technology

Friday, December 12th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

Consumers will be the ultimate beneficiaries of new technology that moves data storage and processing away from the main part of mobile networks, according to experts at Nokia Networks.

Mobile edge computing (MEC) involves putting servers into masts, as well as other parts of the network, to improve the processing and storage capabilities for content and applications.

This technology reduces the amount of data passing between a base station and the main network, which removes data bottlenecks. It will improve user experience and even allow the creation of a range of new applications.

Speaking at the official launch of the MEC Innovation Centre in Bath, experts described a variety of ways that it could eventually be used, from improved video streaming to augmented reality applications, real-time video at live sporting events, and connected car systems.

The centre is a joint project by Nokia Networks and Intel to provide resources to develop applications for the technology.

Dirk Lindemeier, head of Liquid Applications at Nokia Networks, said the technology could improve the sometimes fraught relationship between operators and content providers: “This really sets the basis for a cooperative way of dealing with each other.

“If you speak to the more advanced operators you will hear them talk a lot about partnering with these companies much more than competing with them, or blocking them or deprioritising them.”

He said work they had already carried out with Google was a “testimonial” of that. Nokia has worked with Google-owned video streaming site YouTube to look at a solution where real-time congestion information from the base station is sent to a content provider so they can optimise the delivery of their content.

The user benefits

“Normally the source does something, the network does another thing, and all these mechanisms are technically competing with each other.

“Now all of a sudden we let the network tell the source what to do and everyone benefits.

“The content owner benefits because less resources are wasted on retransmissions and more traffic can be delivered on the same infrastructure.

“The network operator benefits because we are utilising network resources in the most efficient way along the entire delivery chain.

“And then the user benefits because the experience is just getting better. That's how it should be.”

Rob McManus, portfolio marketing manager at Nokia Networks, said mobile edge computing would redefine the relationship between operators and content providers.

He said: “For the mobile operator they now have something that's going to enable them to make money in different places where they've never been able to make money before.

“It's going to redefine their relationship with people like these content providers, the Amazons, the Googles, because now their position in this whole thing we call this value chain, this ecosystem, is completely reversed.

Game changer

“They now have at the edge of their network something of immense value that up until now has just done a very specific job and that's connect your phone to the network to enable you to make calls, send texts, and download a video.

“It can still do all those things but now it can do a whole lot of other stuff as well that they can sell and make money.”

Mr McManus said the so-called “bit pipe paradigm” description of operators, where they have to suffer content providers “chucking” bits down their pipe, could be “shattered to pieces” by the concept of Liquid Applications.

He said: “It's no longer this dumb piece of pipe, we're now putting the intelligence back into the operator's network. And it's a game changer, it really is.

“The content providers have seen the light, they now know that they have to do this and work with the operators in a completely different way that they've never really worked with them before, and that's what the big difference is.”

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